Recently I wrote about the importance of eating vegetables – how they have the highest nutrient density of all foods, but they are the category most people fall short nutritionally. Vegetables can be delicious – it’s just a matter of knowing what to do them. Here are more ideas for getting more into your daily diet:
If you’re not a vegetable fan or your kids aren’t, try adding vegetables to other dishes. Vegetable purees are a great way to go. Try mashed cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes – it has a nice, sweet flavor to it. Add pureed carrots or zucchini to meatloaf, casseroles, pancake batter, muffins and quick breads, and chopped broccoli, mushrooms, or green beans to spaghetti sauce. Vegetable purees can even be snuck into desserts – thereby enhancing their nutrition as well as their flavor. There’s a great book called “ Deceptively Delicious ” by Jessica Seinfeld with great recipes for kid-tested desserts and snacks using butternut squash, cauliflower, spinach, carrot and banana purees. I also recommend keepingacan of pumpkin on your shelf year-round, not just during the holidays. It’s loaded with betacarotene and potassium – great for blending into smoothies, home-made soups, pancakes or puddings.
Dip into vegetables. For snacking, instead of chips and salsa, dip raw or lightly steamed veggies in salsa, hummus, mashed avocado or home-made guacamole, marinara sauce or a lowfat yogurt cucumber dip. This is another way of getting kids to eat more vegetables – just find a topping they like (ketchup and mustard work, too!).
Add vegetables to egg dishes. If you’re scrambling eggs or making an omelet, toss in some mushrooms, chopped onions, bell pepper and cooked asparagus.
Serve chicken or fish warm over a bed of wilted greens instead of rice or pasta.
Pile vegetables into your sandwiches. And don’t stop at lettuce and tomato –add cucumbers, shredded carrots, onions or peppers to name a few. Or, makea lettuce wrap instead of a regular sandwich (substitute romaine lettuce leaves for the bread).
Top your pizza! This another great way to sneak more veggies into your kid’s diets. Whether you make your own pizza, buy it frozen, or get it as takeout, load it up with extra veggies, including broccoli, tomatoes, green and red bell peppers, red onions, and mushrooms. If you’re making your own, go easy on the cheese to reduce saturated fat, but load on the tomato sauce for extra lycopene.
Make vegetables the main dish. Plan your meal around an entree salad, vegetable soup, or stir fry. Add small servings of other foods — lean meat or poultry or low-fat dairy products — as side dishes. Entrée salads are great for summer – toss some fish, chicken or lean beef on the grill and then add it to a big salad
Legumes are a class of vegetables that include lentils, beans (including soybeans) and peas. Low in fat with zero cholesterol, legumes are high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium and are an important vegetarian source of protein. Legumes are also very versatile and inexpensive. Keep cans of beans and lentils on your shelf and you can add accent to a salad, create a healthful soup, stew or casserole, puree them for dips and spreads or soups or combine them with rice for a main vegetarian entrée.
If you already eat plenty of veggies, good for you, but branch out and try some new ones, such as artichokes, eggplant, asparagus, Swiss chard, bok choy, beets, parsnips turnip or mustard greens and jicama. The greater the variety the better insurance that you are getting all of the phytonutrients vegetables contain. So mix it up!